With ESPN’s GameDay hosted in front of McLane Stadium, all eyes will be on Waco this weekend when Baylor hosts the Oklahoma Sooners. The Bears will look to continue their nation-leading home winning streak of 20 straight victories.
After losing the Red River Rivalry to Texas on Oct. 10, the Sooners have dominated in the Big 12, including a 55-0 rout over Kansas State on Oct. 17.
“[The Sooners] are playing extremely well on both sides of the ball. They really have been over the last month — really the whole year,” said head coach Art Briles.
The Sooners have been one of the nation’s best teams since their loss to Texas. Oklahoma has won its last four games by an average of 45.5 points.
In that same stretch, the Sooners are allowing only 12.5 points per game. Oklahoma fields the Big 12’s best defense, as the Sooners’ defense ranks 21st in the country in total defense.
On offense, the Sooners have an explosive attack. Led by Texas Tech transfer and former walk-on Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma has averaged 644.75 yards over its last four.
Mayfield himself has played tremendous football, throwing for 2,812 yards and 28 touchdowns in his first year as the Sooners’ starter.
“[Mayfield] is just a guy that plays with a lot of confidence,” Briles said. “He’s very accurate, can use his feet, tough kid, and a good football player. I respect his journey a bunch, from where he was three years ago to where he is today.”
However, Mayfield is not the only Sooner that has been impressive this year.
Sophomore running back Semaje Perine has run for 806 yards and 10 touchdowns this season on 140 carries.
Fans may remember Perine from last year when he broke the record for rushing yards in a single game with 427 yards.
After a weak performance against the Kansas State run game, the Bears must improve upfront to face an even better run attack against Oklahoma if they plan to move up in the College Football Playoff Comittee.
Baylor got gashed by the Wildcats last week, allowing 258 yards on the ground. Kansas State pushed Baylor at will, averaging 5 yards per carry.
“Coach [Phil] Bennett always has us in the proper spots to be successful, but it starts up front,” said nickelback Travon Blanchard. “We can’t let them control the ball and the tempo of the game. So we have to stop the run and make them one-dimensional.”
While the Bears were subpar against the rush, their secondary has improved tremendously over the past few weeks. Against the Wildcats, Baylor’s secondary intercepted two passes, including a wide receiver pass in the fourth to seal the victory.
If the Bears can improve their tackling and presence on the line of scrimmage against the Sooners, the secondary will have plenty of chances to give the ball back to the Baylor offense.
With freshman quarterback Jarrett Stidham performing well in his first career start Thursday, the Bears’ offense has not lost a beat after junior quarterback Seth Russell went out for the season. The Bears gained 522 yards and Stidham did not throw an interception, throwing for 419 yards and three scores.
Two of those scores went to junior receiver Corey Coleman, who continues to be in immaculate form this season. Coleman has already broken the Baylor school record for touchdowns (14) as he has caught 20 this season.
“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” Coleman said. “I think after the season it’ll really hit me. It’s impressive. I just thank God because it’s a blessing. Preparing well can cause you to do great things. It makes it easy.”
Aside from his 20 touchdown catches, Coleman has reeled in 58 balls for 1,178 yards.
Coleman has cemented himself as a Heisman frontrunner, especially after bad outings by LSU’s Leonard Fournette and TCU’s Trevone Boykin.
“I haven’t thought about it too much. When I was little I did. I told my mom I was going to win it one day,” Coleman said. “The older you get, it’s harder to believe because receivers don’t win it too often, but it’s just a blessing for my name to be in that category right now.”
Coleman is just seven touchdowns away from the NCAA record and is 654 yards away from Baylor’s school record for receiving yards in a season.
If the Baylor offense can continue to play at its usual high level, they have a great chance to defeat the Sooners for the third consecutive year.
Under head coach Bob Stoops, the Sooners have never lost to the same opponent in three straight games.
After having beaten the Sooners by a combined score of 89-26 in their last two meetings, the Bears seemingly have OU figured out. With both teams playing outstanding football in the recent weeks, expect fireworks early and often at McLane Stadium.
This will be the toughest challenge the Bears have had by far in 2015 and the Bears will have plenty of motivation after being disrespected by the college football playoff committee once again.
With both the offense and the defense playing lights out for the Bears as of late, the Bears have a good chance to smother the Sooners.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at McLane Stadium. Coverage will be provided by ABC.